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Metro Vancouver challenge of Langley farmland development hits court

Bold outline delineates broadened limits of Trinity Western University’s proposed university district. Parcels depicted in blue are owned by Trinity, the Township and the provincial government. White parcels are still in private hands, and the yellow portion denotes the portion of the Wall property that is destined for housing. - Contributed
Bold outline delineates broadened limits of Trinity Western University’s proposed university district. Parcels depicted in blue are owned by Trinity, the Township and the provincial government. White parcels are still in private hands, and the yellow portion denotes the portion of the Wall property that is destined for housing.
— image credit: Contributed

A legal challenge launched by Metro Vancouver against Langley Township over compliance with Metro's regional growth strategy is now in the hands of a judge.

The regional district and the municipality were expected to wrap up a three-day hearing in B.C. Supreme Court Wednesday over the fate of agricultural land in north Langley near Highway 1 and Glover Road.

At issue is the township's Official Community Plan amendment last year to allow a dense small lot urban residential subdivision, at odds with Metro's growth plan, which calls for the area to be maintained as low-density agricultural land.

Metro lawyers argued the proposed 13-hectare development by developer Peter Wall is an urban-style project that contravenes Metro's 2011 regional growth strategy.

The land is just part of the township's broader vision for a huge 180-hectare mixed-use University District near Trinity Western University.

Langley Township has argued it need only comply with Metro's previous 1996 growth strategy and is doing so because Metro had once agreed to consider the University District area as a "special study area" where denser development might be allowed.

If Metro prevails and Langley Township is ordered to abide by the new growth strategy, the township could still put its rezoning plan to a vote of the regional board, but it would need a stronger two-thirds majority there to override the growth plan.

Township officials have maintained the land is less suited for farming and the Agricultural Land Commission doesn't object to the development.

The case is the first major test of Metro's new growth strategy, which aims to concentrate growth in town centres and limit sprawl in more rural and agricultural areas outside the plan's urban containment boundary.

It's being closely watched by other municipalities as well as developers.

Some Metro directors have warned a Langley victory would be a precedent allowing increased development of farmland and throwing the region's urban containment boundary into doubt in other cities.

Metro and township officials have declined to comment on the case while it's before the courts.

Metro last year rejected other proposed development projects in Langley Township.

One of them is also the subject of another court dispute in which Metro is challenging Langley's authority to approve development of edge lots along a section of ALR farmland fronting 44 Avenue east of 216 Street.

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